Read Part 1.
4. The smoke from the pit darkens an already darkened sun.
When I say “an already darkened sun” I do so because of Revelation 8:12:
Then the fourth angel sounded: And a third of the sun was struck, a third of the moon, and a third of the stars, so that a third of them were darkened. A third of the day did not shine, and likewise the night.
Here the sun is already greatly affected when the fourth trumpet sounded. As an aside, this verse assumes that, like the sun and the stars, the moon gives off its own light (cf. Matt. 24:29. Do with that what you wish, but I always take the “assured results of science” with a big grain of salt).
A Chronological Conundrum
Having said this, the question of chronology arises. When exactly is the fifth trumpet blown? We have to ask this question because in a purely sequential understanding of Revelation, not only must Revelation 8:12 be considered, there has already been an obscuration of the sun at the opening of the sixth seal:
I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. (Revelation 6:12-13)
This passage looks very climactic, but many assert that it happens prior to opening of the bottomless pit at the fifth trumpet in Revelation 9. Robert Thomas (ad loc) employs a consecutive structure for the Apocalypse that places the fifth trumpet towards the end of the time covered by the Book, which would be towards the end of the 70th Week. But Arnold Fruchtenbaum thinks the fifth trumpet occurs about two and a half to three years into the Tribulation. In my opinion this is hard to reconcile with Matthew 24:29:
Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven…
Are not Matthew 24:29 and Revelation 6:12-13 describing the same events? I do realize that some scholars teach that there are five end times “blackouts” (e.g. Fruchtenbaum, Footsteps of the Messiah, 220-221). Still, even if one allows this for sake of argument, just how many times do the stars fall out of the sky? This is one reason why I hold that Revelation 6 runs through the entire 70th Week from year 1 to year 7. From this vantage point I believe the fifth trumpet occurs before the sixth seal. Revelation 8:12-13 doesn’t fit comfortably after the cosmic mayhem described in Revelation 6:12-17. It looks anti-climactic.
Facing the Literal
Whatever one makes of the chronological question, it may be said that the reference in Revelation 9:2 may be to the initial outcome of the opening of the shaft of the pit, in which case it would be of temporary duration. Therefore, for a certain period (perhaps a few weeks?) the already blighted sunlight is obscured further by the smoke belching out of the pit.
Tony Garland takes an admirably determined literal approach to the description:
The plume of smoke that arose is probably one of the “pillars of smoke” which Joel described in the “awesome day of the Lord” (Joel 2:30). A similar plume of smoke attended the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah by fire (Gen. 19:28). Here we see further evidence that the abyss is deep within the earth and probably of a great temperature due to subterranean activity below the earth’s crust. (A Testimony of Jesus Christ, I. ad loc.)
So the smoke from the pit roars (“like the smoke of a great furnace”) into the atmosphere obstructing the light of the sun and the moon.
5. Infernal “Locusts” come out of the pit and are commanded (by God?) what or who to attack. They are very particular.
The “locusts” that come out of the pit are not like any locusts any naturalist has ever set eyes upon. They strike men with something akin to a scorpion’s sting. They are truly horrific. Just the sight of one would chill the bones. They are demonic (though not necessarily demons per se), but they are under authority. They have a king, whom we shall be studying later, but the command not to hurt the greenery and not to kill people appears to come from God (e.g. what would Satan care about the plants and trees, nevermind humans?). Beale, 494, notes the same “authorization clause” in Rev. 6:2-8 and 8:2. Only those 144,000 sealed Jewish males (see Rev. 7:4-8 and Rev. 14:3-4) will escape these creatures.
6. For a space of five months they torment those who do not have the seal of God.
Strange as it seems, the other saints are not said to be immune from the strikes of demonic beasts (although Fruchtenbaum, Ibid, 229, extends immunity to them. He may be right, but it is a surmise).
Now all of this is quite disturbing: the Tribulation will see the Earth we know altered both by plagues and famines, by the smiting of creation above and below, and by the infernal realm with its real monsters. But we must now turn our attention to the main character in this plot; the “king” of the locust-scorpions.
And they had as king over them the angel of the bottomless pit, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, but in Greek he has the name Apollyon. (Revelation 9:11)
The king is called “the angel of the bottomless pit.” He has a name, given interestingly, in both Hebrew and in Greek; the traditional language of Israel and the language (i.e. the lingua franca) of the first century biblical world. We shall explore this enigmatic king next.
Paul Martin Henebury is a native of Manchester, England and a graduate of London Theological Seminary and Tyndale Theological Seminary (MDiv, PhD). He has been a Church-planter, pastor and a professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics. He was also editor of the Conservative Theological Journal (suggesting its new name, Journal of Dispensational Theology, prior to leaving that post). He is now the President of Telos School of Theology.